By Ian Sewell
Unfortunately, there have no new members since the last journal, I suppose this is to be expected with the increase of internet sites that allow people to do their own research. I have in the meantime continued with the 1881 census work.
At the current time I have about 1800 more entries to examine, having done over 4,000. Of those some 700 I have not been able to find enough details to warrant entry in to our databases. A lot of these were in London and the surrounds where people seems to have a habit of appearing with no previous information available. At a rough estimate I have currently added over 1,000 entries to our databases many of which are from Rutland, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, areas which are not normally associated with the Sewell name but do seem to have large concentrations. There are though some challenges ahead as I have yet to deal with the north – Cumbia & Durham a Sewell “heartland” and Wales – which seems to have a large numbers of families which I know are not in our databases and I will be creating from scratch.
Although I have had no new members I have had a couple of enquires via our website which are intriguing. The first is from Giovanni Proctor who as you can imagine from the name is of Italian ancestry but is linked to one Anne Sewell (1787-1857) whose sister Eliza went to live in Leghorn Italy. Anne’s son was the poet Henry Sewell Stokes (1808-1895). There was also a brother James (1777-1851) who was a lawyer in Gibraltar. Giovanni believes that they are related to the family of Thomas Sewell, the Master of the Rolls from this article which I am quoting in full:
THE ENGLISH ANCESTRY OF LONGFELLOW (6 th S. vi. 421, 495). In chat with my excellent friend and neighbour, Mr. Henry Sewell Stokes, whose office of Clerk of the Peace for Cornwall brings him near me, I mentioned this subject, just started in u N. & Q.” My friend, the author of The Vale of Lanherne, The Chantry Owl, Memories, a Life’s Epilogue, Ezstormel, and much more delicious poetry, tells me that he had a correspondence with the late poet Longfellow in the year 1876 respecting the latter’s intended publication of Poems of Places, in which he wished to insert some verses of Mr. Stokes’s. Mr. Stokes felt honoured by this request, gave ready assent, and many of his compositions will be found in the two volumes so named which Messrs. Macmillan & Co. published. In one of Longfellow’s letters, dated Cambridge, U.S., April 7, 1876, he writes to Mr. Stokes as follows: “Your own middle name suggests kinship. The first of my name who came to this country married Anne Sewell, of Newberry, and as I am descended from her, perhaps we are in some way cousins.” Mr. Stokes, in replying to this letter, wrote to Mr. Longfellow that his own mother was Anne Sewell, daughter of James Sewell, a wine merchant of Bristol, who, on the death of her father and mother, in the early part of this century, accompanied or followed her brother James, a proctor and notary, to Gibraltar, probably in 1806 ; that in 1807 this Ann Sewell married Henry Stokes, a merchant of Gibraltar ; and that the writer, Mr. Henry Sewell Stokes, now in his seventy-fifth year, was the eldest child of this marriage. James Sewell, the proctor, died at Gibraltar many years ago, at an advanced age, and all his brothers and sisters are dead. He informed Mr. W. M. Stokes (a brother of Mr. H. S. Stokes), now a barrister at Gibraltar, that his father, James Sewell, of Bristol, was of the family of Dr. Sewell, a civilian lawyer, and Sir Thomas Sewell, Master of the Rolls. These probably lived in the last century. My friend has not had time to work out of these few particulars fuller details and proofs; but I offer them, thinking they may possibly elucidate a subject in which Longfellow was manifestly interested. T. QUILLER COUCH.
I have checked though our records of Thomas’ family but can not find any one that fits these names. Of course that does not mean to say that they do not exist as the link just may not have been made yet to this family. Of course there is another explanation in that Longfellow has just made up a link because he knew two families with the same name. I hope at some point to try and find out one way or the other.
The other inquiry came from Anthony Randall who is doing some research into probably the most famous Sewell – Anna, of Black Beauty fame. Apparently in the book Dark Horse a Life of Anna Sewell the author Adrienne E Gavin mentions a book ‘Mary Sewell’s Reminiscences, 3 vols, unpublished manuscript in possession of owner’, however there is no indication of who the “owner” might be. I inquired of Tony Storey who has written a couple of articles on Anna but he knew nothing of these books, by chance does anyone else know?